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SETI Institute awards its first research and education innovation grants

The STRIDE grants enable recipients to test high-risk/high-impact concepts and dive into the emerging questions in their fields

SETI Institute awards its first research and education innovation grants
( July 8, 2024, Mountain View, CA – Today, the SETI Institute announced the first projects it will fund with a new program to Support Technology, Research, Innovation, Development, and Education programs – or STRIDE. The SETI Institute established the $500K STRIDE fund for SETI Institute researchers and EOC (Education, Outreach, and Communications) professionals to develop innovative research and education proposals. The first five grants awarded will support projects that: 

analyze Earth’s colors and climate to create detectors for studying exoplanets  develop a multi-backend capability for the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) that will speed up scientific progress with the ATA, doubling telescope time  measure dust in Oregon’s dust devils, aiding atmospheric studies on Earth and Mars  enhance ETI signal detection by studying stellar activity impacts on planets around M dwarf stars  introduce a bilingual cartoon series to enrich communications about SETI Institute science and engage diverse audiences  “The STRIDE program is the SETI Institute’s corner of innovation,” said Dr. Nathalie Cabrol, Director of the Carl Sagan Center for Research at the SETI Institute. “It is meant to enable our researchers, educators, and outreach experts to test high-risk/high-impact concepts and dive into the emerging questions in their fields, which is often difficult to achieve within mainstream programs where funding supports defined priorities. STRIDE is a gateway to tomorrow’s new ways of exploring, discovering, educating, and sharing knowledge with the world. The excellence of the selected projects shows that the program is off to a fantastic start!” 

STRIDE grants include funding for basic research,technology development, prototyping, equipment and instrumentation, field expedition work, education program development, materials, hardware, software, and more. Last year, the SETI Institute announced a philanthropic gift of $200M from the estate of Franklin Antonio, a visionary supporter and catalyst of the work of the SETI Institute for more than 12 years. Co-founder of communications chip company Qualcomm, Antonio left an extraordinary legacy to enable breakthrough science in the search for intelligent life beyond our world. The Franklin Antonio Bequest funds the STRIDE program, and the SETI Institute expects to solicit it annually. 

“Franklin Antonio’s extraordinary bequest to the SETI Institute represents an inflection point in our history,” said Bill Diamond, President & CEO. “Among its more profound impacts is the ability to fund our scientists and professional staff for research and education programs for the first time in our history. These first STRIDE grants will fund innovative and impactful new projects where traditional funding sources might be entirely unavailable.” 

Project Highlights: 

Dr. Margaret Turnbull: 

SETI astronomers will explore what a planet like the Earth would look like through large telescopes like NASA’s Habitable Worlds Observer. Dr. Margaret Turnbull and her collaborators, Dr. Bill Sparks and Dr. Kim Bott will study the colors of the Earth to determine how they reveal the presence of different surfaces and clouds as the planet rotates. They will also use state-of-the-art climate models to examine how the Earth would change if the length of the day were different. The team will develop instrumentation to detect these signals, prototyping a detector that could fit on a small satellite to observe the Earth. 

Dr. Sofia Sheikh: 

The Allen Telescope Array (ATA) is a cutting-edge radio telescope performing research in SETI and radio astronomy. With the STRIDE grant, the team will install a new server and design software to allow for two or more science projects to be performed simultaneously with the ATA, so long as their targets are in approximately the same patch of sky. This “multi-backend” capability will hugely accelerate the rate of scientific progress and discovery with the ATA, sometimes doubling the available telescope time. 

Dr. Lori Fenton: 

The STRIDE grant will allow the project team to measure the concentration of dust in dust devils in the Alvord Desert of Oregon. Calibrating instruments have already produced large images and meteorology data sets. This calibration will enable measurements of dust lofting rates in this data set and in future measurements, providing an estimate of how much dust devils contribute to the atmospheric dust budget on Earth. We can then apply this technique to similar measurements of dust devils observed from the Perseverance rover on Mars.

Dr. Vishal Gajjar: 

This project addresses the understudied impact of stellar activity on detecting narrowband ETI (extraterrestrial intelligence) signals, particularly those originating from planets orbiting M dwarf stars, which are smaller and dimmer than Earth’s sun. By simulating the effects of these stellar environments and orbital properties on signal distortion, the project aims to significantly enhance the ability to find technosignatures. The research includes creating a public, interactive database to predict signal distortions, improving the sensitivity of radio technosignature searches, and developing advanced AI tools to detect these signals distorted by stellar environments. 

Dr. Ann Marie Cody: 

Our new STRIDE program aims to enhance the SETI Institute’s communications program by introducing a monthly cartoon series in English and Spanish. The color illustrations will portray aspects of current research at the SETI Institute in a new way. Downloadable black-and-white coloring pages will allow diverse audiences to apply their ideas and colors. 

STRIDE grants will fund these projects for one year. 

About the SETI Institute 
Founded in 1984, the SETI Institute is a non-profit, multi-disciplinary research and education organization whose mission is to lead humanity’s quest to understand the origins and prevalence of life and intelligence in the Universe and to share that knowledge with the world. Our research encompasses the physical and biological sciences and leverages expertise in data analytics, machine learning and advanced signal detection technologies. The SETI Institute is a distinguished research partner for industry, academia and government agencies, including NASA and NSF.


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SETI Institute awards its first research and education innovation grants


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[] SETI Institute awards its first research and education innovation grants
The STRIDE grants enable recipients to test high-risk/high-impact concepts and dive into the emerging questions in their fields